What are the 4 C’s and How Can Technology Help Improve Them?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler

In today’s workforce, soft skills are much more valued over technical competence. Critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity are the four essential skills that should be enforced as the fundamental of teaching. Learners of today should be taught to practice the 4 C’s skills in school and communities should promote collaborative works to improve the practice of the 4 C’s. This was made apparent by Partnership for 21st Century Skills, the leading advocacy organization founded by the US National Education Association. [1]

In 2002, they identified four essential skills, called the ‘Four Cs’ which top the skill list to survive in school, work and daily life.

So, what are the 4 C’s in the 21st Century?
1.         Critical Thinking
2.         Communication
3.         Collaboration
4.         Creativity



Why is Critical Thinking Important?


To analyse and to interpret, to make judgement and decisions, and to solve problems.

Critical thinking enables us to evaluate different ideas and perspectives, and to approach a solution after analysing facts in detail. In our data-rich environment, this skill is vital to help us sift through the tons of information we are bombarded with daily, separate fact from fake news, and arrive at novel solutions based on sound reasoning. [2]

However, according to a research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, “As technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined.” (Wolpert, 2009) [3]

So how can we turn this around and use technology to help develop our critical thinking skills?  One way is to be more intentional and self-reflective in the way we create and share content online. Before sharing our experiences, we can

  • reflect on the kind of message we want to send
  • curate the best examples to get our point across
  • evaluate the potential impact on our readers.

And with digital tools, we can create digital stories where technology provides greater diversity and creativity for one to express his/her own personal stories.[4] This method incorporates multimedia (images, audio, video) to enhance our information presentation. In fact, creating digital stories has been advocated as a teaching strategy to encourage learners to evaluate, interpret and reflect on the contents that they design. (Robin, 2006, Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom).

In BeED, our Learning Experiences tell digital stories of how to bridge the gap between textbook learning and the real life application of knowledge. This way, learners can develop critical thinking skills by experiencing and making contextual connections to the world around them.


Why is Communication Important?


To convey, to listen, and to evaluate information- to collaborate with others.

Having the ability to clearly express oneself through verbal, written and nonverbal communication has become even more important as technology creates increasingly new avenues of communication. Communication is all about sharing thoughts, questions, ideas and solutions; but at the same time, listening, understanding, empathising and responding to others. [5]

According to the National Education Association, “Expressing thoughts clearly, crisply articulating opinions, communicating coherent instruction, motivating others through powerful speech- these skills have always been valued in the workplace and in public life. But in the 21st century, these skills have been transformed and are even more important today.” [6]

Fortunately, proper technology usage can make effective communication easier. Choosing the appropriate medium for communication allows us to talk with several people from different parts of the world at the same time. With electronic communication, we are also able to express our thoughts clearer and more efficiently by having the option of attaching supporting documents through multimedia. Furthermore, the need to worry about time and distance is completely eradicated as we are able to post contents in just one click. Technology has indeed changed the way we do business and education worldwide, as it provides us with an exceptional platform for collaboration without barriers.

In BeED, our mobile app allows direct two-way communication between educators and learners for instant feedback on our Learning Experiences. Besides that, users can also share their answers on social media to communicate their learning and discuss in groups through the medium of technology.


Why is Collaboration Important?


To work towards a goal in a group, and to share responsibilities together.

Collaboration brings people together to communicate, share ideas and perspectives and achieve a common goal. By collaborating with others, we create opportunities for ourselves to learn about diverse backgrounds and to work respectfully with each other. The advantages of collaborative skills are countless, and this skill can be enhanced with the help of technology.

According to Steve Jobs, “My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of its parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” [7]

Through advances in communication technology, we can fundamentally change the way teams collaborate. It encourages people to work together on a global scale regardless of their backgrounds, and even crowdsource ideas and tasks to create novel solutions. Now, we are able to form a team from various parts of the world with video calls for meetings, creating the feeling of ONE team that is able to share responsibilities and collaborate towards the same goal.

In BeED, our travel concierge service facilitates service learning to encourage learners to collaborate with local communities through community service. By working together with various cultural groups to accomplish a shared mission, BeED hopes to foster greater cultural empathy, unity and acceptance among learners.


Why is Creativity Important?


To innovate, to invent, to brainstorm, and to dare to explore new approaches.

Creativity is not only linked to the arts; in fact, creativity is about creating out-of-the-box ideas in all areas. New ideas are needed to solve old and new problems alike. Today, we can utilise technological tools to find more inspiration and expand our creative ideas, as this is vital for visualizing innovative solutions for our globally changing world.[8]

According to Robert Sternberg of Tufts University, “Successful individuals are those who have creative skills, to produce a vision for how they intend to make the world a better place for everyone; analytical intellectual skills, to assess their vision and those of others; practical intellectual skills, to carry out their vision and persuade people of its value; and wisdom, to ensure that their vision is not a selfish one.”[9]

With our current technology, creativity can be enhanced through social media and internet information services. These platforms enable us to share ideas and creativity, collaborate and innovate globally. Regardless of the type of media, technology has created a wealth of resources – whether for art inspiration or for pools of information. We should take this opportunity to use these technology platforms and start thinking outside the box to create more unique innovations.

In BeED, we encourage creativity by enabling you to learn at your own style and pace through the BeED app. We provide a platform for educators to structure their learning materials into engaging Learning Experiences, allowing creative freedom for learners to answer questions more interactively in various forms of multimedia, audio, or video.

In short, technology has transformed the human experience and plays an important role in enhancing the 4 C’s. It can be a win-win situation only if technology is used correctly. Therefore, educators play a huge role in instilling the 4 C’s with proper technology usage for the learners – ensuring that every child can be an effective citizen of the current global economy. BeED is heading towards this direction with our educational mobile app- a platform to learn without boundaries. Embark on your journey with us!

To read more about skills and attitudes for this 21st century, take a look at these blog posts:

· The Primary Fuel of Healthy Growth – an Inquisitive Attitude:


· Inquiry: Our Natural Gift, Our Duty to Grow It:


· Feedback: Gaining a Second Opinion:








[1] “An Educator’s Guide to the Four Cs: Preparing 21st Century Students for a Global Society.” National Education Association. 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2019.

[2] Wan, Guofang and Gut, Dianne M. “Bringing Schools into the 21st Century.” Springer Science+Business Media. 2011. Web. 25 Jan. 2019.

[3] B. Stanley, Deborah. “Practical Steps to Digital Research: Strategies and Skills for School Libraries.” Libraries Unlimited. 2018. Web. 31 Jan. 2019.

[4] Dunford, Mark and Jenkins, Tricia. “Digital Storytelling: Form and Content.” Palgrave Macmillan. 2017. Web. 31 Jan. 2019.

[5] Greenstein, Laura. “Assessing 21st Century Skills: A Guide to Evaluating Mastery and Authentic Learning.” Corwin. 2012. Web. 24 Jan. 2019.

[6] Wibby, Brian. “Four ways youth can develop their “Four Cs” through Michigan 4-H.” Michigan State University Extension. 27 Dec. 2016. Web. 31 Jan. 2019.

[7] Ken Thomas, Alan. “The Business Wisdom of Steve Jobs: 250 Quotes from the Innovator Who Changed the World.” Skyhorse Publishing. 2011. Web. 31 Jan. 2019.

[8] Piirto, Jane. “Creativity for 21st Century Skills: How to Embed Creativity into the Curriculum.” Sense Publishers. 2011. Web. 24 Jan. 2019.

[9] Sternberg, Robert J. Wisdom. “Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized.” Cambridge: Cambridge UP. 2007. Web. 27 Jan. 2019.

Bringing Learning to the Real World


What’s the similarity between these 4 pictures?

Answer: They are all great discoverers that observed and learned from their natural environment!

 “Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity by flying a kite.” [1]

“Isaac Newton was inspired to discover gravity under the apple tree.” [2]

“George de Mestral invented Velcro after a hiking trip.”[3]

“The Wright brothers built the first airplane without attending college.”[4]


I’m sure you’ve probably heard of them all. The images and the statements above indeed convey a strong point- the learning possibilities at the real world. Come to think of it, do you think the classroom is the only place for learning? If so, what about learning out in the real world?

Let’s take a look at this picture:


Look how freely the students roam and how they discover what interests them in the real world. Guess what? This is exactly how the story of the great discoverers (Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, George de Mestral, and the Wright brothers) begins.

The world interests whoever(you!) that wants to learn!





Studies show that learners remember information more efficiently when there are more senses involved during their learning process. By bringing lessons out into the real world, learners will naturally utilize all five basic human senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) in their process of learning.

Let’s compare these two learning settings:

real world vs classroom

Which environment would you choose to learn in?

Most will probably choose the one on the left! The real world allows learners to learn in context as they apply theory to actual scenarios, bringing relevancy to whatever they have learned in the classroom. Furthermore, by seeing, hearing, touching, and even tasting (when possible) the subject, learners are able to retain information more efficiently.[5]

The British Audio-Visual Society has also conducted a research showing that people remember[6]:

‘10% of what they read,

20% of what they hear,

30% of what they see,

40% of what they both see and hear,

70% of what they say,

and 90% of what they both say and do.’





Unfortunately, the perspectives of many students are limited by the conventional education system. It has always been the read-and-memorize textbook and the exam-oriented mindset, which leaves no space for curiosity and creativity. Creativity is born out of curiosity! Through the real world, learners see how patterns and processes shape our world.

For example:


Imagine a young learner exploring the flora of an actual river. Now, let’s imagine the same learners looking at a picture of a river in their textbooks. Which one would inspire their curiosity to explore further?

In the real world, learners get to see in action how the river flows. They even get to observe what is beneath the river. Learners would get curious to explore the structure of the river and the landscapes around it in the real world, as opposed to just a visual of a river in a textbook!

This induces healthy curiosity, which is what we need in our education system. Learning in the real world will make learners question their natural surroundings and encourage their desire for answers towards a greater idea. The real world sparks curiosity, inspires imagination, and creates endless possibilities. [7]





In this complex world, it is now more important than ever for a learner to develop lifelong skills that help them become global-minded citizens.[8] To cope successfully in this era of rapid globalization, learning cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are extremely vital.[9]


Learners develop independence and adaptability in different environments for learning in the real world. One of the best ways for learners to learn in different environments is by peer collaboration. When they learn together, they can discuss, reason and work with each other. Besides that, learning in the real world teaches learners to be aware of their surroundings and to practice their observational skill- of the environment, social interactions, and self-reflection. These skills are better practiced in the real world where learners could solve problems in real life.





The reality is that education should always evolve with the modern world. The conventional system of classroom and textbook is most probably not as effective for learners now as the world has improved with many resources and devices to rely on. In this 21st century, learning would only be more productive when we take the advantage of merging the role of technology with our experiential learning experiences.[10]


For instance, with mobile devices, learners can be guided to use their smartphones to record their experiences during an excursion, and they can then share their life experiences with family and friends all around the world. This would allow learners to use their devices but at the same time, encourage them to interact with the real world.

Education should not only be confined to textbooks and classrooms. True knowledge is not found in books, but in the world around us. The learning journey is not about regurgitating information from textbooks to exam papers, but to experience and to relate our understanding in the real world. Don’t forget- mastering life skills is quite important as well. It is time to make a change in your learning. Whether you are a student, or a working adult- you can still be a lifelong learner.

At BeED, we believe in a world where education is not limited by physical boundaries. Digital learning is our tool to break all barriers to learning and inspire our users to go on adventures and to learn by experience. BeED aims to impact the lives of people around the world to learn and grow. With our very own customized BeED experiential learning platform, indoor and outdoor learning can take place anytime anywhere, via mobile “Learning Experiences”. We can turn any journey into an adventure of learning. Embark on your journey with us!






[1] Tucker, Tom. “Bolt of Fate: Benjamin Franklin and His Fabulous Kite.” United States by PublicAffairs. 2003. Web. 15 Jan. 2019.

[2] M. Rosinsky, Natalie. “Sir Isaac Newton: Brilliant Mathematician and Scientist.”. Compass Point Books. 2008. Web. 15 Jan. 2019.

[3] S. Morrison, Heather. “Inventors of Everyday Technology. Cavenish Square Publishing. 2016. Web. 15 Jan. 2019.

[4] Wright, Orville. “How We Invented the Airplane: An Illustrated History.” Green Edition. 1988. Web. 15 Jan. 2019.

[5] Wilder, Kris, and A. Kane, Lawrence. “The Way to Black Belt: A Comprehensive Guide to Rapid, Rock-Solid Results.” YMAA Publication Center, Inc. 2007. Web. 16 Jan. 2019.

[6] “Exhibits for Special Issue.” Educational Technology. Vol. 54, No. 6. Educational Technology Publications, Inc. 2014. Web. 17 Jan. 2019.

[7] Olmsted, Sarah. “Imagine Childhood: Exploring the World Through Nature, Imagination, and Play.” Roost Books. 2012. Web. 17 Jan. 2019.

[8] Richardson, Will. “Changing the Rules of School.” Modern Learning. 3 Jan 2019. www.medium.com/modern-learning/changing-the-rules-of-school-fc4d770cf921. Web. 18 Jan. 2019.

[9] Renner, Philomena. “The Importance of Cognitive, Intrapersonal, and Interpersonal Attributes to Student Success: An Exploration of University Student’ and Staff Views.” Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association: Number 48. October 2016. Web. 18 Jan. 2019.

[10] Caroll, Kathleen. “A Guide to Great Field Trips.” First Skyhorse Publishing. 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2019.